Thursday, May 22, 2008

Artists and Writers

So for Mother's Day I dragged my family to the Museum of Modern Art. I'll confess straight off that all modern art is not to my taste, but I absolutely love photographs. The MOMA had a exhibit of Lee Friedlander's work and I wanted to see it.

The exhibit was huge. Four or five big rooms of photographs spanning four decades. His body of work is so large the curator made the decision to display the photos by subject rather than by date, giving the viewer the chance to see how the same subject was treated at different points in his life and career. As I meandered through the white-walled rooms it occured to me that artists have the right idea. I'm sure that Lee Friedlander didn't think to himself, "Oh, I shouldn't spend time on this subject, I already covered this." Or, "Maybe I shouldn't use up this roll of film today. I already shot four."

Every time they choose a subject and execute their art, they are creating. I think as writers we have a tendency (or at least I do) to think that any work, any writing that isn't strictly attached to a project or going to be part of a finished work should not be written. That I should "save" my words for that project.

The truth is that every experience we have informs our work. Every thing that happens to us on any given day is going to influence our words, our creation in some way. This is neither good or bad. It just is. And writing is writing, whether the words ultimately make their way into a story or not isn't the point. The point is to just...write.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Space Between...

...a blank first page and a finished manuscript.

There's a lot of sweating, swearing, brain-hurting, plot-twisting, heart-pounding, and even gagging that goes on between the white screen we face every day and the finished (or very un-finished) page we end up with as the first draft.

Double, triple, quadruple, even quintuple all of that angst from the first draft to the second to the third to the twentieth before your baby is ready to make its way out into the big, bad world and you've got the space between.

The veritable truth of that space (and what I remind myself of every single time I think I've written total drivel--my favorite poor writing word of the moment) are the sage words Nora Roberts spoke the first time I heard her "chat" at a conference.

"You can't revise a blank page."

So, the next time you're staring at that blank screen...jump into that space, put your butt in your chair, and write. :) 'Cause sure as sh*t, those words will be waiting for revision.


PS--Yes, I seem to have a music theme going here. The Space Between, Dave Matthews Band, is on my playlist while I'm working.